Network City: Architecture and the Contemporary Urban Condition, Spring 2003

Network City: Architecture and the Contemporary Urban Condition

Kazys Varnelis, Ph.D.
Network City is an advanced survey of the contemporary city and the role of buildings within it. The urban environment of our time is shaped by pressure from an increasingly global economy, advances in telecommunications, economic restructuring and radical sociodemographic changes. The resulting city increasingly abandons a centered, fixed, place-bound, and hard entity for a fluid field condition organized by competing networks of technology and individuals. Recent changes have blurred the distinctions between city, suburb, and rural into a broader urban (or post-suburban) condition.


Southern California Institute of Architecture
Spring 2003
Program in History and Theory of Architecture and Cities
Kazys Varnelis, Ph.D.

Network City is an advanced survey of the contemporary city and the role of buildings within it. The urban environment of our time is shaped by pressure from an increasingly global economy, advances in telecommunications, economic restructuring and radical sociodemographic changes. The resulting city increasingly abandons a centered, fixed, place-bound, and hard entity for a fluid field condition organized by competing networks of technology and individuals. Recent changes have blurred the distinctions between city, suburb, and rural into a broader urban (or post-suburban) condition.

If the physical fabric of the city is marked by liquification of sorts, so is its political coherency: the polis is replaced by a micro-political landscape of competing interest groups and bureaucracies that effectively undermine most large urban interventions. In response, and also in reaction to a postmodern epistemology, the construction of hard infrastructures purporting to fix the city has given way to implementation of soft systems of high-speed fiber networks and “smart” technologies augmenting what exists. Failure itself now becomes an inescapable and integral part of urban planning strategy.

A major component of Network City is an investigation into the relationship of these urban changes to architecture. The city’s demands on program, envelope, and plan, particularly in terms of the office building and the individual dwelling unit, be it apartment, loft, or single-family house are topics of investigation as are the reciprocal influences of changes in these typologies on the urban context.

The course also investigates the changed role of art architecture in the city. The thorough permeation of culture by capital and the corresponding permeation of capital by culture ”“ marketing through design, for example – under late capitalism impacts the societal function of art and architecture. To trace this, the course looks at the construction of an idea of “authentic urbanism” based in art practices in the 1960s onwards and the descent of this idea from the avant-garde to marketing strategies. Likewise, the course traces, and questions, the transformation of the avant-garde strategy of shock into the “Bilbao-Effect” and the subsequent marketing of cities based on monuments. The conflicted relationship of architecture to the city is highlighted throughout.
1 Introduction: Towards Network City

2 Metropolis as Body/Machine/Ecosystem

  • Louis Wirth, “Urbanism as a Way of Life,” LeGates and Stout, The City Reader, 97-105.

3 The Growth of the City [New York, Chicago]

  • Ernest W. Burgess, “The Growth of the City: An Introduction to a Research Project,” Richard T. LeGates and Frederic Stout, The City Reader (London: Routledge, 1996), 97-105.

4 Field Trip to Quartzsite, Arizona
5 Boulevards and Lines [Los Angeles]
6 Office Buildings, Corporate Machines

  • Spiro Kostof, “The American Workplace,” America by Design (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), 69-134.
  • Michelle Murphy, “The Corporate Machine,” Sick Buildings and Sick Bodies: The Materialization of an Occupational Illness in Late Capitalism, Ph.D History of Science, Harvard University, May 1998, 49-68.
  • Peter Rowe, “Corporate Estates,” Making a Middle Landscape (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1991), pp. 149-181.

7 Polynucleated City, City Core, + Urbanity

  • Victor Gruen, “Cityscape and Landscape,” in Ockman, Architecture Culture 1943-1968, 194-199.
  • Mario Gandelsonas, “Scene 6. The Suburban City,” and “Scene X. The Development of the X-Urban City,” X-Urbanism: Architecture and the American City (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1999), 30-43.

8 Suburban Mall, Downtown Mall, House, Loft

  • Witold Rybczynski, “The New Downtown,” LeGates and Stout, 170-179.
  • Sharon Zukin, “Living Lofts as Terrain and Market” and “The Creation of a ‘Loft Lifestyle” in Loft Living (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press), 1-22, 58-81.

9 Postsuburban Culture

  • In Class Video: Office Space

10 City Core as Model

  • Ivan Chtcheglov, “Formulary for a New Urbanism,” 1-4, and Guy Debord, “Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography,” 5-8 in Ken Knabb, ed., Situationist International Anthology (Berkeley: Bureau of Public Secrets, 1981).
  • Jane Jacobs, “Introduction,” The Death and Life of Great American Cities (New York: Vintage Books, 1961), 2-25.
  • Malcolm Gladwell, “Designs for Working,” The New Yorker, December 11, 2000, 60-70.
  • “Office Landscape,” Progressive Architecture, (September 1964), 201-203.
  • “B?ɬºrolandschaft, U.S.A.,” Progressive Architecture, (May 1968), 174-177.

11 Telecommunications, The Network Enterprise and the Global City

  • Mitchell L. Moss and Anthony M. Townsend, “How Telecommunications Systems are Transforming Urban Spaces,” James O. Wheeler, Yuko Aoyama, and Barney Warf, eds., Cities in the Telecommunications Age: The Fracturing of Geographies (New York: Routledge, 2000), 31-41.
  • Manuel Castells “The Space of Flows,” in The Rise of the Network Society, second edition, (New York: Blackwell, 2001), 406-459.
  • Saskia Sassen, “A New Geography of Centers and Margins: Summary and Implications,” LeGates and Stout, The City Reader, 208-214.

12 Postsuburbia and the Landscape of Non-Place

  • Robert Fishman, “Beyond Suburbia: The Rise of the Technoburb,” LeGates and Stout, The City Reader, 77-86.
  • Rob Kling, Spencer Olin, and Mark Poster, “Beyond the Edge: The Dynamism of Postsuburban Regions,” and “The Emergence of Postsuburbia: An Introduction,” Rob Kling, Spencer Olin, and Mark Poster, eds. Postsuburban California: The Transformation of Orange County (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), vii-xx, 1-30.
  • Alan Ehrenhalt, “The Empty Square,” Preservation, April 2000, 42-51.
  • J?ɬºrgen Habermas, “From a Culture-Debating (kulturr?ɬ§sonierend) Public to a Culture-Consuming Public,” The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1991), 159-175.
  • Martin Heidegger, “Building Dwelling Thinking,” Basic Writings, (San Francisco: Harper, 1993), 343-363.
  • Marc Augé, “Prologue” and “From Places to Non-Places,” in Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity, (London; New York: Verso, 1995), 1-6. 75-115.

13 Posturbia and the Terrain of Discontinuity

  • Selections from Michael J. Weiss, The Clustered World: How We Live, What We Buy, and What it All Means About Who We Are (New York: Little, Brown, and Company, 1999).
  • Bert Mulder, “The Creative City or Redesigning Society,” and Justin O’Connor, “Popular Culture, Reflexivity and Urban Change in Jan Verwijnen and Panu Lehtovuori, eds, Creative Cities. Cultural Industries, Urban Development and the Information Society, (Helsinki: UIAH Publications, 1999), 60-75, 76-100.
  • Sze Tsung Leong, “Readings of the Attenuated Landscape,” Michael Bell and Sze Tsung Leong, eds., Slow Space (New York: The Monacelli Press, 1998), 186-213.
  • Mike Davis, “Fortress L.A.,” LeGates and Stout, The City Reader, 193-198.
  • Martin Pawley, “From Postmodernism to Terrorism,” Terminal Architecture, 132-154.
  • Gilles Deleuze, “Postscript on Control Societies,” Negotiations: 1972-1990, trans. Martin Joughin (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990), pp. 177-182.

14 Conclusion; Case Studies and Strategies

  • Kazys Varnelis “Hallucination in Seattle. Frank Gehry’s Experience Music Project,” Pasajes de Arquitectura y Critica, June 2001 and “Cathedrals of the Culture Industry,” Pasajes de Arquitectura y Critica, August/September 2002.
  • Alex Wall, “Programming the Urban Surface,” 234-249. James Corner, ed. Recovering Landscape, Essays in Contemporary Landscape Architecture (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1999), 233-249.
  • Sanford Kwinter, “The Politics of Pastoralism,” Assemblage 27, (August 1995), 25-32.
  • Kazys Varnelis, “Los Angeles at the Limits. Practice in a Late Capitalist City,” Praxis 5, Spring-Summer 2003.

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